“Summer has become a distant memory, time to gear up for winter flying. This entails switching to a dedicated winter paraglider canopy, an older wing that I don’t mind getting wet and a little muddy.”

Sound advice from Sky Surfing Club regular Goran Oberg, as winter has short days and poor weather. But the Petersfield-based group of paraglider pilots recently enjoyed an entire weekend of flyable conditions from the South Downs.

Butser Hill was the place to be on the Saturday. Sky Surfer Justin Simmonds achieved a flight of 22km to Fishbourne. He said: “I arrived on Butser late morning but found the wind was too strong and gusty so waited in the hope it would calm down. Eventually the wind strength did drop so I launched from Butser’s west facing slope and managed to catch a thermal. I was circling my way to cloud base when I saw three red kites climbing faster than me, so I went to join them.

“At cloud base I noticed at least four ominous rain clouds in the distance which did not look inviting. I headed west, aiming to go around the top of Goodwood airspace, but the rain over Petersfield seemed to stretch along the Downs and appeared to be moving down towards me. I changed my plan and took a direction to the south of Goodwood and Chichester. I couldn’t find any more thermals so decided to head towards the nearest station, Fishbourne. I landed safely and caught the next train for the journey back to Butser Hill to pick up my car.”

On the Sunday Oberg, Frazer Wilson and Russell Winters were among those who flew 17km from Harting Down to Bosham.

Oberg recalled: “The wind direction was perfect for Harting Down, a site that can offer some nice flying to the coast. On my second flight of the afternoon I had one goal in mind: Bosham. Frazer had also set this as his goal as he lives there.

“To start with I struggled to gain height - it was much harder compared to my first flight. I saw Frazer locate a very nice thermal, taking him high enough to leave the hill and fly towards home. I waited for the next big one and luckily another thermal came through and took me straight up to 3,700ft. I flew over the picturesque landscape finding regular thermals, a very relaxed flight. When I landed at Bosham, Frazer picked me up and took me back to his house for a warming cup of coffee before we drove back to Harting to retrieve my car.”

Winters flew earlier in the day. He said: “Less than 60 seconds after take-off I found a thermal which took me to 1,800ft. Keeping a constant watch on the ground for other thermal sources, I left the Down for the pub - in Bosham.

“It was almost five years since an identical cross-country flight - my first; the route was easily repeated towards the coast.

“What a flight. Nowhere is there a view like the South Downs at 2,000ft.”

Brian Parkins